First up, there was some severe weather in Colorado on Thursday and Friday. A long-lived but relatively weak tornado (EF-2, preliminary) hit south of Greeley and traveled up east of Fort Collins. One death has been blamed on the storm, which did something like $200 million of damage. Other cells also produced tornadoes, but they weren’t as damaging.
I went storm chasing both days. I didn’t get out until after the big-news tornado, which touched down at 11:30A and traveled north-northwest. Unfortunately, I didn’t see much on Thursday. On Friday I went out to the far eastern plains and even poked into Kansas a little bit. I ended up backtracking north and west into Colorado. I think if I had kept going into Kansas, I would have seen more action. Tornadoes were reported pretty consistently with those storms. Oh, and while I was out, another tornado hit near Greeley. Some luck. This storm season is setting records for number of confirmed tornado reports and deaths.
Remember that NASA’s Phoenix Lander is scheduled to land on Mars tonight. I’m going to my local museum to watch NASA’s live feed of the event. It’s a tricky landing, so I really hope everything goes well.
Yesterday’s Rocky Mountain News had an interesting piece by Jason Salzman’s “On the Media”. He referenced a May 13 Denver Post article that explained how political campaigns “brand” their opponents. The language used is interesting, so stay with me. I’m going to quote the piece at length to illustrate my point.
In Colorado’s U.S. Senate race, Bob Schaffer and his supporters label U.S. Rep. Mark Udall a “Boulder liberal,” and Udall supporters call Schafer “Big Oil Bob” or “Shifty Schaffer,” according [to] the Post article.
Interestingly, though, “Shifty Schaffer” and “Big Oil Bob” had never appeared in the Post before the Post’s article about political branding ran. Not once.
And “Big Oil Bob” was in just two news stories in the RMN during the past year. “Shifty Schaffer” did not make a single appearance.
“Boulder liberal,” on the other hand, was in seven news articles in the Post and eight in the Rocky – beating out “Big Oil Bob” by a 7-to-1 margin. (To be accurate, 15 to 2 is a 7.5-to-1 ratio.)
First of all, note what’s written in the first paragraph. “Bob Schaffer and his supporters … Mark Udall’s supporters”. Mark Udall isn’t name-calling Bob Schaffer. He’s elevating the political discourse. You’re never going to guess who’s generated the silly name-calling of Mark Udall, unless you’ve read this or similar blogs. That’s right: Dick Wadhams, chair of the Colorado GOP and Bob Schaffer’s campaign manager. Is Mark Udall’s campaign manager calling Schaffer names? No, but the Post article doesn’t point that out either. I think it’s fine that supporters use descriptive words when discussing their opponent. But it’s childish when a campaign manager and head of a state’s political party is the one issuing the name-calling most often.
Where did the Post get the “Big Oil Bob” and “Shifty Schaffer” material? Probably on-line. Which poses an interesting question: given the Post’s written and unwritten disdain for bloggers, does anyone think there might be a reason they’ve picked out names from on-line communities? Would it be to continue to discredit their efforts? Would it be to create a controversy where none exists? Where is the discussion on issues that both candidates have? I suppose they’re lacking because Schaffer hasn’t been very forthcoming on where he stands on things. Every time he does express that stance, it ends up highlighting his additional ethical deficit. So I guess I can see why the Post wasted space on an article that really didn’t show what they thought it would show.
Back to the Salzman piece, because he raises an additional good point. He basically points out what I just did, though not as verbosely, then goes on to write:
If you’re a journalist, and you’re confronted with Wadhams’ “branding” PR tactics, what do you do? Do you allow his everyday quotes to be a conduit for off-topic name-calling that’s not only repetitive but also false, because Udall lives in Eldorado Springs?
No, you don’t. You paraphrase the guy. The public interest isn’t served by printing “Boulder liberal” repeatedly in the newspaper, unless it’s relevant to the story at hand.
But the goal for journalists should be to explain the issues – without subjecting readers to crude and repetitive name-calling of the sort Wadhams has mastered.
Talk about hitting the nail squarely on the head! “conduit for off-topic name-calling”, “repetitive”, “false”, “public interest isn’t served”, “journalists should explain the issues”. He sounds just like one of the crazy liberal bloggers, doesn’t he? I mean, I’ve written about this same issue time and time again and the Senate race isn’t even visible yet. Others in the blogosphere have done the same.
Here’s the issue: I don’t think there are many journalists at the Denver Post or the Rocky Mountain News. There are a number of corporate stenographers and corporate editors, who are responsible for repeating exactly what folks like Dick Wadhams says verbatim, regardless of the relevancy or truthfulness of his petty insults. As Salzman points out, that doesn’t serve the public. That distracts from the issues, which is exactly why Wadhams does what he does. It’s worked for years and the corporate media haven’t given him a reason to change his ways. I would love to make what he’s making and feed the exact same b.s. to the media day after day. How easy!
Two more things. This is why more and more people are looking for their news outside of corporate media sources. They know they’re not getting the full story and they know the crap they’re getting is intended to distract from the real news that they want. Corporate greed is one major factor behind hard-working journalists losing their job. The stuff we see and read is the result.
This is also why Republicans are losing races across the country and why Bob Schaffer will lose his. The tired talking points of the fringe right-wing doesn’t interest voters like it did 10 years ago, or even four years ago. Voters recognize the list of real issues facing them and this country. They’re fed up that Republicans haven’t been able to address those issues, despite holding a majority of every branch of government at multiple levels for years. Republicans have worked to put themselves in a minority position. I’m sure that when they decide to start acting like adults again, the voters will give them another chance.